Journey Jotters

Bitten by the travel bug

Today, two interesting events occurred that need remarking upon. So I thought about starting a segment called “Around the world…” where I could focus on small and large events that capture the travel psyche.

The first one, of course, was the total solar eclipse seen across “a path of totality” that covered the breadth of the US. Ever since I first read about this event, I had been raring to go. But today being the first day of school at our ISD, we couldn’t have missed it for it would have meant unenrolling and re-enrolling the children. Why the ISD did not allow a day or two off to allow the children to witness such a unique spectacle is beyond my comprehension. Furthermore, what was disappointing was that children weren’t allowed to watch the live stream from NASA, either. Missy JJ and Sonny JJ had to settle for pictures that we had on our cameras.

But for those lucky enough to watch in person and those of us, like me, that followed the NASA live stream program were left with a feeling of awe. The last total solar eclipse in the contiguous US states was 38 years ago in 1979. And while many solar eclipses do travel across the US, its rare that they cross its breadth in one wide swath.

I have been reading about people scrambling to travel to places along the path of totality and booking any little place they could find, be it a hotel, motel, camp site, farmlands, just to be there and experience the phenomenon. My biggest consolation, while I sat back watching this ongoing frenzy, was that the next one will be in 2024, and Dallas is in its path of total eclipse. I thinks it’s a reasonable expectation that I will be alive and able to participate then.

NASA had several cool locations to watch the eclipse from, including the International Space Station, the Gulfstream III aircraft, amongst others. It was totally mesmerizing watching the eclipse from the G III aircraft on their live feed. I heard so many commentators use the word “goosebumps” to describe how they felt watching this unfold.

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Nail like crescent, partial solar eclipse, pin hole mechanism

In our neck of the woods, my colleagues and I watched the partial eclipse on a piece of paper with a pin hole mechanism. One of my colleagues brought in a pair of eclipse glasses around 1:30 pm, past the peak period for Dallas. By then, the event was nearly finishing but we raced outside to enjoy the thrill, if only for a few fleeting seconds.

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Partial Solar Eclipse, Dallas

The other big event today was the silencing of the iconic Big Ben in London. On visit to London in 2011 started off to a great start with a visit to the Elizabeth Tower that houses Big Ben. Unlike what most think, Big Ben is the bell that tolls the hour, not the clock face that keeps time. The bell has been in service for nearly 157 years, a marathon for its age and work. The 13. 7 tonne bell and the clock face and the tower that houses them will all undergo repairs, possibly into 2021. Which means visitors to London will miss the hourly gong that is so evocative of Westminster and London, itself. Although, the bell will chime a couple of times a year on special occasions like New Year’s Eve and Remembrance Sunday.

At the end of the day, I’m certain that Big Ben badly needs the repairs that it will be undergoing. After all being pressed into service for a century and a half is no small feat. But while this bell rests, impatient feet will bow at its feet, clicking away at the tower and the clock face, eagerly awaiting the day the reassuring sounds of beloved Big Ben will joyfully sound once again.

Read about Big Ben history and restoration, here and here.

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